Bionic Eye Close to Reality with New Camera

Steve Austin was the six-million dollar man. The TV series saw and mangled astronaut rebuilt, complete with bionic eye. Science fiction has often led scientists to develop similar technologies. Now the blind may be one step closer as a scientists have developed a camera that can reproduce human vision.

Until recently the thoughts of transplanting an eye with an artificial eye was something that was left to science fiction. However, researchers have now come a step closer to creating a bionic eye that would help the blind see when they created a camera that could reproduce human vision.

American researchers have predicted that this advancement will revolutionise digital photography and will eventually give the blind the gift of sight.

The new camera has a curved detection surface. This copies the effect of light from a subject hitting the curved retina, which are then coverted to images by sending messages along the optic nerve to the brain. The new camera allows for the capture of sharper images without distortion. It also provides for a better field of view as does the human eye.

Research teams from Illinois University and Northwestern University, Illinois managed to develop curved digital sensors without breaking the brittle electronic imaging material.

This was flattened so the delicate electronics could be built on to it before it was allowed to spring back to its original shape. When the flexible mesh of silicon pixels joined by tiny wires springs back, the wires take the strain, leaving the delicate pixels intact.

The mesh is transferred from the membrane to a curved glass lens to produce a fully-operational camera which can then be linked to a computer so its images can be viewed.

Professor Yonggang Huang, of Northwestern, said: ‘Traditional cameras focus in the middle of the shot but leave the edges fuzzy. But because this camera has a curved lens, it gives clear vision across the entire plane, just like human sight. ‘So far, we have only developed a camera. But it opens the door to many future possibilities in the future – including human use.

‘We would have to resolve how to connect the camera to the brain and make it compatible with the human body, but I can envisage the day when a device such as this is transplanted into a human eye socket to give the gift of sight.’

Professor John Rogers, of Illinois University, said the breakthrough ‘Allows us to put electronics in places where we couldn’t before.’

The device only has 256 light-sensitive pixels – unlike the thousands used in standard digital cameras – but the researchers say it should soon be possible to design one with far more